Interception Confessions: DeAndre Hopkins Taking Responsibility
On the surface, the two interceptions Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has thrown in the first two games of the season might appear to be a cause for concern. Yet, when taking a closer look, it may not be as alarming.
While Murray is one of seven quarterbacks across the NFL to have thrown two interceptions through two games, six have tossed three or more. In fact, Philadelphia's Carson Wentz and Minnesota's Kirk Cousins lead the league with four in the category.
Murray's first pick came via a tipped pass in Week 1, where San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw popped an intended pass to tight end Maxx Williams into the air that safety Jaquiski Tartt came down with.
In Week 2 against Washington, it was a slightly different scenario, one in which Murray's receiver shouldered the blame.
"There's a lot of stuff that I can get better at," Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said Tuesday. "I think the interception that he threw last week was definitely my fault. I ran the wrong route, so the safety wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for me running the wrong route. I definitely hurt my team in that aspect, but I've definitely got to get better and play better."
Despite Hopkins' claims for needed self-improvement, the Cardinals are off to an undefeated 2-0 start for the first time since the 2015 season. The connection between Murray and his new No. 1 target has been a key cog in making that a reality. Through two games, Hopkins has accumulated 219 receiving yards on 22 catches — an NFL record for most receptions through the first two games of a season with a new team — and one touchdown.
Still, Murray had to let his teammate know who was at fault after throwing an interception on the Cardinals' own side half of the field, setting up a red-zone opportunity — one that was stifled on a strip-sack by defensive lineman Jordan Phillips and recovered by outside linebacker Chandler Jones on Washington's ensuing offensive possession.
"I told him to tell y'all that because he did run the wrong route," Murray said Wednesday, chuckling. "But it's all good. That's something that we've both got to be on the same page about. Obviously frustrating at the time, but looking back on it, it's an area where this is Week 2, we haven't had a lot of time together, we've just got to be better and we will be better."
The ability for Hopkins to own up to his apparent mistake in such a public way impressed Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who made sure to give credit where it was due during his virtual press conference Wednesday morning prior to the start of practice.
"I think first off as a quarterback, or a former quarterback, you definitely appreciate him owning that," Kingsbury said. "It just shows his security as a player and what he's about. And honestly, it was more of just a miscommunication then the wrong route, which is going to happen as we build that bond with him and we continue to work through our signals and things of that nature. But I appreciate that and I know our quarterback does as well. It's just going to get better and better with him. He's open to learning, he's open to coaching and he wants to be the best more than anything. And I'm excited to see where it goes with him and Kyler for the rest of season."
The relationship between Murray and Hopkins began its formation when the Cardinals quarterback invited his new receiver, as well as around 20 other offensive skill players, to conduct workouts in his hometown of Dallas, Tex., over the summer. Without traditional offseason programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it allowed the two to meet for the first time and lay the groundwork of what is currently taking shape on Sundays.
"First time when we met was when he came out to Dallas," Murray said. "Just hit it off, natural vibe, just real chill, real good dude. And then from there, obviously you've got the quarterback, receiver connection. Someone really can't explain it unless you've played the game or you've been a part of it. He's a great dude, great teammate, great player, obviously."
While it might be difficult to explain, Murray gave some insight into how the bond between pass-thrower and catcher has blossomed.
"I think we just naturally have that connection already," he said. "I think it's just about being out there together, seeing the looks, understanding what I like, understanding what he likes and building it that way. But as far as the feel goes, the understanding of what it should look like, we have those deals in our head already because we anticipate stuff, see stuff before it happens. It's just about now just being together and going out there and doing it. And obviously we're going to get a ton more looks, but I'm happy he's on the team and I know he's happy to be here, so hopefully we can keep this thing going."